Surprisingly, many organizations think that the success of their customer community is solely based on the technology they choose. The truth is that there are a lot of non-technical items that can make or break your online community.
In a recent interview social business consultant, Jeff Marmins discussed some of the important things that executives need to understand before they focus on the online community platform in order to create a successful online community for customers.
Why would your customers or members come to your online community? Of all the other places they could go, what are the unique features, content, and value that your site will offer that will make it different from the rest and worth your busy customers' time.
It's OK to ask customers what they would like to get from your community. Many companies think they know what customers want, and maybe they do, but if you are going to spend the time and allocate the resources to launch an online customer community, it makes sense to ask what customers want out of the community.
If the online community is not a key initiative in your business communication with customers, don't do it. Customers sense when things are "thrown together" or not a priority for a company. Make participation by employees part of their review. If you take your community seriously, your customers will too.
Don't roll out every feature you can on day one. Many online community platforms have a ton of features. If you roll them all out on day one, you will overwhelm your customers. Roll out the community in phases. This makes for a manageable learning curve for customers and staff, keeps your site fresh with new features every few months, and makes your company appear to be continuously investing in their online community.
If no one owns the community, it will fail. Designate a person or team that owns the community and is responsible for its success. An online community can be a tremendous sales, marketing, and support tool, but only if you give it the care and feeding that it needs to be successful.
Go beyond understanding that there will be bumps in the road and actually prepare for them. If there is one thing that is true of all online communities, it is that they are always a work in progress. There will be successes and setbacks as your community grows. There will be new technology that you can take advantage of and new trends in social media your community will need to adapt to. As long as you are prepared for change and adaptation upfront, you will be ready to make your online community the successful tool it can be.
Before implementing your social business strategy, make sure that key executives are in agreement about the non-technical elements of online customer communities. Technology is only half of the equation to successful online community for customers.